Day 11 Padron – Santiago
I loved my little bunk in Alburgue Rossel. Forgetful thing that I am though, I took the locker key with me this morning and I forgot to pay for my laundry so I will post that back before I leave.
My plan today was to have a short day. I wanted to look around Iria Flavia again, visit the church and get my Padrona certificate. So I stayed in bed a little later, had coffee and took my time. I left at just before 9.00 and the first thing I noticed was the cold. Wow. The sky was cloudless and the air so cold I could see my breath. I made a quick stop to add layers and put on my hat and gloves… Brrr it was cold.
I arrived at the church to find it all locked up. I wandered around but there was no sign of life. I asked a lady if it would open soon but she shook her head. I’m not sure if she understood my awful Spanish but the simple fact was that it was closed. And I was jolly cold.
Plan B… Keep walking. Head down I marched on. Its amazing how fast you can go when you want to warm up. I felt at one point that I might break into a jog. One foot in front of the other and I was amazed how quickly the kilometres dropped away. Before I knew it I’d reached A Escravitude… That meant just about 20km to go. It seemed crazy to end for the day in 10km… It was only 10 in the morning. I stopped in a cafe for a hot coffee and considered my options.
The thing is that I’d got into my head that I wanted to arrive tomorrow. I needed to arrive on the 4th. My compostela needed to be dated the 4th. Arriving today meant I’d messed up… That I’d ruined the plan. Oh why did I make life so complicated? I emailed ‘tonights’ alburgue to say I wouldn’t be staying. I would walk on.
Back in the cold I layered up again. I turned off the busy road onto a quieter path. Crunch crunch crunch… I drifted back into my thoughts. My mother was born on the 4th of December. My mother was also buried on the 4th of December. It seemed important that I should honour her by arriving tomorrow but it wasn’t to be. I felt a twinge of failure.
My mum was quite posh. Born into a middle class family, her father was a career soldier and a drill Sergeant Major. He was also a bit of a bully but he was away a lot when she was a child. She had a twin brother and they never called him father or dad… Only ever ‘the old man’. She adored her mother. They lived close to each other, almost neighbours. Her death was a huge blow for my mum. I honestly don’t think she ever fully recovered from it. My mum was a dress maker… A tailor. She hand made wedding dresses for House of Frazer. She was good. She made all of her own clothes and ours too when we were little. She made her own wedding dress and both mine and Mandy’s. She could hardly see when I got married (aged just 19)… But she was determined that she would do that for us.
I never really knew my mum, not the real woman. I only knew the MS version. She was told she would live less than 10 years… She survived for 30. She always told us that MS would never get her. She died of the flu.
I’ve no idea how my parents met. They were an odd couple. Sally the posh girl and my dad from the rougher end of town. He was one of 11. His dad was a brute and a bully. My dad said he could remember as a child his mother being beaten by his father. I think my dad was dyslexic too. He was left handed, as am I (although I had to sit on my left hand in primary school until I learned to write with my right hand). In the 1960s being left handed was seen as an obstacle, thankfully these days it is seen as creative. My son is very left handed so I’m guessing it’s genetic.
Regardless of how they met, they did love each other. I think that love waned in the years after my grandmother died but ultimately I think it survived the darkest years and stayed constant. For all his faults my father loved and cared for my mother until she died. She spent the last 12 years of her life unable to perform any task alone. 12 years in bed. 12 years being fed and bathed. The night before she died she kissed my father goodnight and said she wasn’t ready to go. That shook me. How much pain and suffering could my mother take? Seriously how strong willed must she have been?
I asked Gerry to send me some photos of their wedding. They looked so young and happy. I said I wondered what their life would have been like if luck had been kinder. Gerry said that my mums illness was maybe the catalyst for it all and I found myself typing the thing I’ve felt all my life… Maybe if I’d never been born.
I was listening to this song. I heard it yesterday in a bar in Padron… Which… Shock horror!!! Had no peppers. I went in for a drink and Piments de Padron… Lo siento… Not today. Well that was a crushing disappointment. But the song was playing and it spoke to me. Hence why I asked for photographs.
I thought about this weight that hangs around my neck. I feel guilty. I feel like I caused this. I wasn’t loved. I should never have been. I’ve spent my whole life seeking validation. I don’t write these blogs for self pity or adoration. I think I’m trying to figure it all out. If I do better. If I try harder. They might love me. I might be good enough. But they are both dead now and they’ll never tell me I’m good enough. I’ll never hear them tell me that I was loved. You know just writing this I’m aware that I have no memory of either of my parents saying I Love You. And now they are both gone I never will.
On I walked in the cold cold morning. My face hurt from the cold and tears just would not stop rolling down my cheeks. The path meanders through villages and fields and a little more forest. More muddy stretches more frosty shadows and on I walked.
How could I be better. I thought of the women in my life who I admire. I should be kinder. I should be like Linda. Seriously the kindest person out there… She is the epitomy of a Pilgrim. I should be strong like Maggie. She walked her first camino in her 60s, wrote a book about it and then moved half a planet away from home to follow her heart. Or maybe I could have the courage of Maggie (Magwood). She walked her first camino with her daughter and then every year since she sets forth alone on epic journeys and I am in awe of her achievements. I have incredible friends who are selfless and brave and truly amazing and I fear I will always fall short. I remember asking Jaqui in her final days if I had been a good enough friend. Maybe I should ask St James just please… Make me good enough.
The sun was rising and I was hungry. I stopped on a bench and had the last two slices of now stale bread with a little cheese and cold water. Maybe I was taking this Pilgrim lark too seriously?
I chatted with his nibs. He teased me with images of hot tea. I love him so much that my heart aches.
I came to a section of trail that was still drenched and sodden. Euw. Cold wet mud. I tried to walk around but the leaves lulled me into a false sense of security and I felt the cold water seep in. Oh well my feet were already cold so what the heck.
Back on the trail. Through a forest. The sun was shining but its rays were just not getting through. I was looking at the markers. Counting down the kilometers. Show me a sign I thought. And there it was. 14.14.
I laughed when I saw it. 14 is mine and Ger’s lucky number. It made me cry again. I just want a hug from him. I played Fix You by Coldplay. I cried some more. All alone in the forest and sobbing like a six year old.
I sent a link to Gerry. I said because he fixes me. He replied and said I’m not broken… Just a little dented. Like Fabio (Matts car, a Skoda Fabia). That made me laugh.
On I walked. Through O Milladoiro and onwards. From here it really does feel like 10 kilometres of suburbs. The sun was high in the sky and layers had been peeled. Hat, gloves, coats all packed away. I was down to a t-shirt but was still hot.
As I walked up a hill I thought about why we loved the number 14… Our first conversation, the first I love you, we moved in together, valentine’s, ollys birthday, my birthday… So many 14s. I stopped. I’d thought it. My birthday was a 14… It was part of the reason why that was our number. The day I was born did mean something after all.
On and on I walked. Down a hill and up a hill. Gerry phoned. Come home he said. Don’t stay there alone. Come home. I cried some more.
On and on I walked and before I knew it I was there. Looking up at the newly renovated towers, gleaming under a blue blue Galician sky. It felt a little surreal.
I checked into the Parador. Then walked down to the pilgrims office. A priest handed me a ticket. Number 67. There was no one else there. A buzzer went and the screen flashed number 67.
Where did you start walking she asked. Why are you walking. I tried to explain but the words wouldn’t form in my mouth. I breathed. I walked because I wanted to get a compostela for my father. He died and he wasn’t always a good man. But if there is a heaven I want him to go there. I want him to be with my mother. And I thought if I walked and if I did this it would help.
They understood. Five people trying to help me as I stood there and cried. Tissues. Water. Words of kindness. Thank goodness there were no other pilgrims. They wrote the compostela. For my Father.
I returned to the cathedral and hugged the Saint. I went down to his tomb and prayed. Please let him in.
Gerry sent me a message. He booked me a flight home. I realised that the best way to honour my mother on her birthday was to be at home.
I had thought that it would mean more if the compostela was dated the 4th. But now I think it makes no difference at all. The most important thing is that it’s done.
I am drained. I feel wrung out. I knew I needed to walk. I had no idea it would effect me in this way. I’m not fixed, maybe I’ll always be a little broken but maybe at least I have a greater understanding of what drives me. I need to fill my world with people who bring joy and walk away from those that I’ll never please.
It’s time to go home.
Happy birthday for tomorrow mum. Dad I hope you finally find your peace.
Tell the people who fill your world that you love them. I cannot tell you how powerful those three little words are.